Until the 1970’s, the question of women being ordained to the priesthood was never an issue. But, over the last 40 years, it has become an issue with some women theologians and others who wonder why. Since many Protestant churches are starting to have ordained women pastors, it is understandable the question is being asked. For some proponents of women being ordained, the facts about history, custom, tradition, and apostolic authority don’t seem to matter. But, the fact still remains that Holy Orders can only be conferred to baptized males. It is the infallible teaching of the Catholic faith since the time of Christ.
It might sound politically incorrect, but the reason that women cannot be ordained is because they are not men. When God chose to come to earth and take on a human nature, he chose to become a man. He chose to become a specific human being, the man Christ Jesus; “For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all —this was attested at the right time (1 Tim 2:5-6).” So, since priests serve in the person of Christ, those human beings are men and not women.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
“Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination.” The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry. The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ’s return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible (#1577).”
Pope John Paul II address this issue on May 22, 1994 in his “Apostolic Letter on Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone.” This letter is called “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.” Here is some of what he said in the letter:
Priestly ordination, which hands on the office entrusted by Christ to his Apostles of teaching, sanctifying, and governing the faithful, has in the Catholic Church from the beginning always been reserved to men alone. This tradition has also been faithfully maintained by the Oriental Churches.
When the question of the ordination of women arose in the Anglican Communion, Pope Paul VI, out of fidelity to his office of safeguarding the Apostolic Tradition, and also with a view to removing a new obstacle placed in the way of Christian unity, reminded Anglicans of the position of the Catholic Church: “She holds that it is not admissible to ordain women to the priesthood, for very fundamental reasons. These reasons include: the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men; the constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; and her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God’s plan for his Church.”
In the Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem, I myself wrote in this regard: “In calling only men as his Apostles, Christ acted in a completely free and sovereign manner. In doing so, he exercised the same freedom with which, in all his behaviour, he emphasized the dignity and the vocation of women, without conforming to the prevailing customs and to the traditions sanctioned by the legislation of the time.”
Until next time, God bless.